Ever wonder why mass merchandisers employ people to set up displays?

The obvious answer is that they want to make sure their product is displayed in a manner that is pleasing to the customer and draws the greatest possible attention in the shortest time.

So then, why do we as retailers of used vehicles, tend to ignore this prime area of opportunity at the dealership?

I tell my clients to cross the street, look at their used-vehicle inventory and ask this: Does my inventory speak to the road? Is there anything that would make people driving by turn their heads? Can you clearly see the difference between your new-and used-vehicle inventories or does it all blend together on the same lot?

Used-vehicle inventory should be clearly separated from new-vehicle inventory and should have depth as well a breadth to the display.

I prefer to see several rows (depth) of inventory displayed as opposed to a long single row.

Alignment of inventory is also critical to making sure that your display stands out.

Military type alignment should be the order of the day on the used vehicle lot with proper spacing of units allowing for the doors to be opened and giving customers the room to walk around a vehicle on display.

Do you have a standard at your dealership for what will be displayed on the windshields and side windows of your vehicles?

Bright colors on windshields and mirror danglers all help to draw attention to the inventory. (Just make sure that they do not obstruct the vision of anyone driving a vehicle on a road test.)

Create “Why Buy from Our Store” cards that hang from the rear-view mirror. That way, when customers sit behind the wheel of the vehicle, they see a message that lists the advantages of doing business with your store.

There is a saying, “You should not spend more on the invitation than you do on the party.”

But in the retail automobile business, we do this time and again. We spend large amounts of money on advertising that proclaims we are having a big sale, then don't give any indication at the store itself that indeed we are in the midst of one.

When you go to the shopping mall, you can sure tell which stores are having sales. They are the ones with the banners and signs.

Yet you see dealership ads in local newspapers every week saying they are having a sale, but if you drive to the dealership and look around there is no indication of anything special taking place. So now, have they told their first lie without even greeting the customer?

Meanwhile, we will spend lots of money to spiff our sales staff for the first deal written or the highest gross profit written to hopefully motivate a better result.

But when I ask groups of dealers and used-vehicle managers what percent of the staff they feel is typically motivated by this process, the common response is 15%-20% and, more often than not, the same 15%-20%.

If you were to spend that money on visual merchandising, and really rock the lot and showroom area you could motivate 100% of your staff. You just took your average sales associates from hoping for a sale to thinking they might sell two or three cars.

Moreover, if a customer shows up at the dealership and it looks like a sale is taking place, then they are most likely thinking they are in the right place at the right time.

So, if your sales people are thinking they have the chance to sell several vehicles today and the customer is thinking they are in the right place at the right time — the dealership has it going on!

The key here is atmosphere affects attitude. As good retailers we should make sure our lots and showrooms are visually interesting and create an atmosphere that will motivate the sellers and buyers alike.

Dennis Gregg is a used-car consultant for NCM Associates Inc. He is at 913-649-7830 and dgregg@ncm20.com.